Bouncing off the Sound Walls
Barriers will reduce Cotton Belt noiseDART is making exciting progress on the Cotton Belt Corridor Regional Rail Project. The agency is finishing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) based on comments on the Draft EIS during its 45-day public comment period, which ended in early June.
One concern raised during the Draft EIS review was the proposed height of sound walls that will serve as noise barriers. DART had planned to build 12-foot sound walls within the DART-owned right of way in certain residential areas of Carrollton and Dallas, where the EIS study projected noise impacts.
Chad Edwards, assistant vice president of capital planning, said a 12-foot wall in these areas will mitigate the noise. But some citizens were concerned the walls wouldn't be high enough.
So, DART erected two sample walls to show the difference between 12 and 15 feet. While the demonstration walls were not indicative of the materials, construction or finish of real sound barriers, DART hoped to provide community members an opportunity to examine the wall height for themselves.
"It's difficult for people to envision how a wall will look in a drawing. But when you see the wall in its element, you have a much better sense of how it will fit into the aesthetics," Edwards said.
The agency staged the demo near Preston Green Park, a Dallas-owned neighborhood park that borders the Cotton Belt Corridor. Approximately 180 residents visited the site, which was available July 30 through Aug. 4, to view the demonstration walls and talk with DART staff.
Based on residents' comments, DART now plans to construct 15-foot noise barrier walls in all locations to provide additional sound and visual screening. The environmental analysis identified the need to construct 22,250 lineal feet (4.2 miles) of noise barriers in 20 sections near locations with noise impacts.
Quiet zones will reduce most noiseThe noise and vibration study found the major source of potential noise from the Cotton Belt Project is from train horns that operators would sound at the numerous at-grade crossings along the proposed rail alignment. By implementing quiet zones at grade rail crossings, DART will eliminate 95 percent of the noise impacts.
In quiet zones, which the Federal Railroad Administration must certify, train operators only sound the horn at road crossings in emergency situations rather than as a standard operating procedure.
"People worry that the Cotton Belt noise will be as loud as a freight train," Edwards said. "The diesel-electric passenger trains that DART plans to buy are so much quieter."
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